US President Barack Obama will visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where Christians believe Jesus was born, when he visits the region next week, Palestinian sources said.
The Palestinian Authority was officially informed by US authorities that Obama would travel to Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank to visit the site where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable, the sources said.
Obama begins a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories on March 20, Israel said on Sunday, in the first official announcement of the much-anticipated visit — his first as president.
He will hold talks with Israeli officials in Jerusalem and travel to Ramallah in the West Bank, seat of the Palestinian Authority, and Bethlehem on March 21.
On June 29 the UN cultural body UNESCO overrode Israeli objections to urgently grant world heritage status to the Church of the Nativity.
UNESCO’s 13-6 secret vote to add the Church of the Nativity and its pilgrimage route to the prestigious list was received with a round of rousing applause and a celebratory fist pump by the beaming head of the Palestinian delegation, and deep disappointment from Israeli ally Washington.
The US delegation to UNESCO said at the time that it was “profoundly disappointed,” while stressing that “this body should not be politicised.”